An underrated European XI

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Season in, season out, superstars such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez capture the footballing universe’s attention. 

However, as talented and entertaining that these players are, tragically, many other talented names in European football go unnoticed under their shadow.

This team I have drawn together unites the names which have bags of potential, but criminally have gone untouched in the transfer market or largely unrecognised in the media as of yet.


Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow, Russia, 27)

Akinfeev made his debut for CSKA at the age of 17, and has been their number one ever since.

He has yet to have a bad season for the current Russian champions, and the now-captain of his side kept a staggering 24 clean sheets in 41 games in the 2012/13 campaign, yet there has not been any real interest in him from any major clubs.

He will surely be hoping that the World Cup next year will be his chance to finally attract the offers he deserves.


Gregory Van der Wiel (Paris Saint-Germain, Holland, 25)

Since moving to the Ligue 1 title holders, Van der Wiel has not had the same success he had at Ajax.

The marauding full-back spent the majority of the 2012/13 season watching from the bench as older team-mate Christophe Jallet claimed the post of right-back.

He will be itching to once again exhibit the talent which we saw him display in the Champions League for Ajax, and in the 2010 World Cup for Holland.

Van Der Wiel would be an asset for any big European club, especially for sides such as Arsenal and Real Madrid who are in need of new defensive faces this coming season.

Nicolas N’Koulou (Marseille, Cameroon, 23)

A versatile defender who has played across the back four for club and country, N’Koulou has impressed at Marseille since joining from Monaco in 2011.

He has been voted by fellow Ligue 1 players into the 2011/12 and 2012/13 teams of the season, and over the past few years he has turned heads across all the top European leagues, with particularly fierce interest coming from Spanish sides Sevilla and Atletico Madrid.

However, surprisingly, this year, Marseille have not had to ward off interest in the Cameroonian…

Joao Miranda (Atletico Madrid, Brazil, 28)

Miranda had a tremendous campaign with Atletico Madrid last season, and silenced many sceptics by holding down a deserved place in the team’s starting 11, becoming a stalwart and a fan-favourite.

His strength and aerial ability make up for his tendency to be somewhat cumbersome, and after recently replacing Luisao in the Brazil national squad, the 28-year-old will surely be disappointed no bids have come in.

Fabio Coentrao (Real Madrid, Portugal, 25)

In his time so far at Madrid, Coentrao has yet to fully find his feet. He has been gifted game time due to the injury-problems of Marcelo, but despite Fabio impressing, Marcelo remains first-choice.

The Portugese left-back’s name has been thrown around in numerous rumours concerning Bale’s impending arrival at Los Galacticos, but aside from these whisperings, the former Benfica star’s name has been shockingly unused in the transfer mill, which is a shame, given the player’s flare, versatility and ability to play the ball.


Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli, Italy, 22)

Possibly the most surprisingly un-monitored player in this XI, Insigne has the potential to be a world-class player. He stole the show at the Euro U21 Championship, demonstrating at international level the flare, speed and technical ability which he possesses.

However, under the Rafa-Revolution at Napoli this summer, which has so far seen forwards Gonzalo Higuain, Jose Callejon and Dries Mertens sign for the club.

Insigne could be looking at a 2013/14 campaign on the bench, and if teams do not come in for him, he would be surely be one of the most criminally unused players in Europe.

 Kaka (Real Madrid, Brazil, 31)

Although the 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year has disappointed severely since his €65 million move to Madrid, it goes without saying that the Brazilian is an extremely talented player.

He has had to play understudy to the likes of Modric and Ozil over the past few seasons, and now that the Spanish giants have secured the services of boy-wonder Isco (who scored on his La Liga debut for the club in a 2-1 win over Real Betis at the weekend).

It is looking increasingly unlikely that he will be able to fight his way into the side’s starting 11.

This would all certainly ease the process of a transfer from the team, and many clubs would fall over themselves to land one of the most well-known names in world football.

Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla, Croatia, 25)

As signified by the departures of key men Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas, in order to solve the various financial problems the club are currently facing, they are having to resort to an exodus of their top players.

Rakitic is now their hottest property (along with France defender Geoffrey Kondogbia), and if the right offer were to come in, Sevilla would surely be unable to resist letting the Croatian leave.

The playmaker has the ability to play across the midfield, from a defensive position to even a number ten role behind a striker.

With there being interest in him in previous seasons from other sides, it is surprising that so far in this window a club has not tried to capitalise on the financial status of the Spanish side and sign him.

Luis Nani (Manchester Utd, Portugal, 26)

Probably the highest profile name on this list, Nani has fallen out of favour at the Theatre of Dreams.

The arrival of Ashley Young and rise in form of Antonio Valencia have blocked the Portugese international from the starting 11, and now that the English champions have landed young starlet Wilfred Zaha, first-team football is an increasingly unlikely prospect.

Earlier in the transfer window, Nani was strongly linked with French tycoons AS Monaco, but sporting director Vadim Vasilyev has said that no more major acquisitions are planned at the moment.

Despite this rejection, no club has expressed any real interest in the player, and if Nani were to stay at the Red Devils, he would arguably be one of the world’s best bench-warmers.


Burak Yilmaz (Galatasaray SK, Turkey, 28)

Although unlike the other players in this XI, Yilmaz has drawn a formal bid from a club (Lazio) during this transfer window, but the lack of interest from bigger clubs is has been unexpected.

He scored 32 goals in 39 appearances last season for the Turkish champions, but he has proved he can also perform outside his domestic league, finishing top scorer in the group stages of the 2012-13 Champions League group stage with six goals.

Regularly using his strength and speed to foil defenders and seal goalscoring chances, Yilmaz would certainly fit into the structure of a major European side, and it would be disappointing not to see him at one in the 2013/14 season.

Aleksandr Kerzhakov (Zenit, Russia, 30)

In my opinion the most frustratingly unnoticed player of the past three years, Kerzhakov whilst on form is one of the best finishers in Europe.

He has a fantastic record for the Russian club, with 46 goals in 85 games, but unfortunately failed to display his true prowess in front of goal at Euro 2012, where he drew criticism from many for wasting chances, and for drifting too wide. 

Perhaps this is the reason clubs have not expressed interest in the forward as of yet, but at the modest age of 30 he is still scoring regularly for club and country, and is showing no real sign of losing his physical or technical ability.

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